Topic: National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Written by Elizabeth Landau
Pasadena, CA – With two suns in its sky, Luke Skywalker’s home planet Tatooine in “Star Wars” looks like a parched, sandy desert world. In real life, thanks to observatories such as NASA’s Kepler space telescope, we know that two-star systems can indeed support planets, although planets discovered so far around double-star systems are large and gaseous. Scientists wondered: If an Earth-size planet were orbiting two suns, could it support life?
It turns out, such a planet could be quite hospitable if located at the right distance from its two stars, and wouldn’t necessarily even have deserts.
Washington, D.C. – A fresh approach to designing and manufacturing heat-thwarting thermal protection systems (TPS) for spacecraft is being developed and tested, offering the promise of fabricating larger tile sizes while reducing labor, cost and waste.
TPS, or heatshields, form the outer surface of spacecraft – called the aeroshell – and provide protection as the vehicle plunges through planetary atmospheres. This technology is critical to assuring mission success.
Written by Alan Buis
Pasadena, CA – New research on solar storms finds that they not only can cause regions of excessive electrical charge in the upper atmosphere above Earth’s poles, they also can do the exact opposite: cause regions that are nearly depleted of electrically charged particles.
The finding adds to our knowledge of how solar storms affect Earth and could possibly lead to improved radio communication and navigation systems for the Arctic.
A team of researchers from Denmark, the United States and Canada made the discovery while studying a solar storm that reached Earth on February 19th, 2014.
Written by Rob Gutro
Greenbelt, MD – The storm formerly known as tropical cyclone 15S, now called Tropical Cyclone Ernie continued to strengthen as NASA’s Aqua satellite captured a visible image that showed the storm developed an eye.
NASA’s Aqua satellite passed over Ernie on April 7th at 0645 UTC (2:45am EST) and the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer or MODIS instrument took a visible image of the storm. The image showed an eye had formed as the storm strengthened into a hurricane. Thick bands of powerful thunderstorms surrounded the eye.
Written by Andrew Good
Pasadena, CA – A mechanical rover inspired by a Dutch artist. A weather balloon that recharges its batteries in the clouds of Venus.
These are just two of the five ideas that originated at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and are advancing for a new round of research funded by the agency.
In total, the space agency is investing in 22 early-stage technology proposals that have the potential to transform future human and robotic exploration missions, introduce new exploration capabilities, and significantly improve current approaches to building and operating aerospace systems.
Written by Elizabeth Landau
Pasadena, CA – Scientists have long thought that Ceres may have a very weak, transient atmosphere, but mysteries lingered about its origin and why it’s not always present. Now, researchers suggest that this temporary atmosphere appears to be related to the behavior of the sun, rather than Ceres’ proximity to the sun.
The study was conducted by scientists from NASA’s Dawn mission and others who previously identified water vapor at Ceres using other observatories.
Written by DC Agle
Pasadena, CA – A relatively large near-Earth asteroid discovered nearly three years ago will fly safely past Earth on April 19th at a distance of about 1.1 million miles (1.8 million kilometers), or about 4.6 times the distance from Earth to the moon. Although there is no possibility for the asteroid to collide with our planet, this will be a very close approach for an asteroid of this size.
The asteroid, known as 2014 JO25, was discovered in May 2014 by astronomers at the Catalina Sky Survey near Tucson, Arizona — a project of NASA’s NEO Observations Program in collaboration with the University of Arizona. (An NEO is a near-Earth object).
Written by Alan Buis
Pasadena, CA – Last November’s magnitude 7.8 Kaikoura earthquake in New Zealand was so complex and unusual, it is likely to change how scientists think about earthquake hazards in plate boundary zones around the world, finds a new international study.
The study, led by GNS Science, Avalon, New Zealand, with NASA participation, is published this week in the journal Science. The team found that the November 14th, 2016, earthquake was the most complex earthquake in modern history. The quake ruptured at least 12 major crustal faults, and there was also evidence of slip along the southern end of the Hikurangi subduction zone plate boundary, which lies about 12 miles (20 kilometers) below the North Canterbury and Marlborough coastlines.
Written by Preston Dyches
Pasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, in orbit around Saturn since 2004, is about to begin the final chapter of its remarkable story. On Wednesday, April 26th, the spacecraft will make the first in a series of dives through the 1,500-mile-wide (2,400-kilometer) gap between Saturn and its rings as part of the mission’s grand finale.
“No spacecraft has ever gone through the unique region that we’ll attempt to boldly cross 22 times,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “What we learn from Cassini’s daring final orbits will further our understanding of how giant planets, and planetary systems everywhere, form and evolve. This is truly discovery in action to the very end.”
How time and our spacecraft fly – especially when you’re making history at 32,000 miles (51,500 kilometers) per hour.
Washington, D.C. – Continuing on its path through the outer regions of the solar system, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has now traveled half the distance from Pluto – its storied first target – to 2014 MU69, the Kuiper Belt object (KBO) it will fly past on January 1st, 2019.
The spacecraft reached that milestone at midnight (UTC) on April 3rd – or 7:00pm CT on April 2nd – when it was 486.19 million miles (782.45 million kilometers) beyond Pluto and the same distance from MU69.
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